A blog from Tonto Books, featuring musings from the publishing world and some occasional special guest appearances.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
If you're not one of the 1,200 people who has already downloaded our free Tonto Christmas Stories e-book, you can still do so until the end of December. Why not print it out and read it by the Christmas tree with a mince pie and a glass of eggnog?!
Thanks for supporting Tonto Press in 2006. You can read about what we got up to over the year here.
Have a great 2007!
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
There's also a feature on Tonto in the latest Writers' News - see it on our media page. The article is slightly confusing in that it announces Pete Tanton as the New Novelist project winner but then invites further submissions - to clarify, the novelist project is finished and no further novel submissions are being sought. We are, however, accepting short story submissions here.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
Also, because it's Friday, here's a chance to win a signed copy of The Burglar's Dog personally scrawled upon by author Mark Jones plus one of our much sought-after Burglar's Dog enamel badges. To be in with a chance, just email us your name and address here with the words "dog compo" in the subject line of your mail, before midnight on Sunday. Good luck!
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
This week we're also offering another chance to get a Burglar's Dog enamel badge. Click here for details.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
There were hiccups, naturally. Compere Phil Hoffmann managed to read just one solitary question before the PA system packed in. Not to be defeated, Phil leapt onto a chair and delivered the rest of the quiz in very loud voice. The general knowledge round was mindbending (Sample question: 'What is the combined number of whole legs owned by Paul McCartney's wives?' Answer: Three), and the picture and music rounds were extremely testing, but by the end there were three teams tied in first place with 41 points out of 60. A quick tie-breaker saw one lucky team walk away with a 'Geordie Hamper' containing Brown Ale, stottie cakes, pease pudding, pickled onions and black bullets. What a result.
Thanks to everyone who came along and took part in the quiz, and bought books and badges. Special thanks to Phil Hoffmann for doing a great job as compere in testing circumstances. Thanks also to Burglar's Dog author Mark Jones and Burglar's co-pilot John Egdell for helping organise and run the night, and to the staff at the Newcastle Arms for serving up the booze. The Burglar's Dog is available from all good bookshops. Get more details here.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
So why has The Burglar's Dog succeeded where so many other independent publications have failed? The most obvious reason is that the content is fantastic. In terms of writing quality, Mark Jones's 'non-fiction pub guide' wipes the floor with many of the supposedly 'more literary' tomes around at the moment. Ian Robinson of BBC Radio Newcastle said during an interview with Mark, 'It's a great book, it's beautifully written, and it's very, very funny'. His co-presenter Paul Wappat added, 'For a tenner, you'll never laugh so much.' We very much concur. The book has also enjoyed invaluable 'word of mouth', building on the popularity of the Burglar's Dog website to become something of a cult, and it has been great to overhear people discussing the book in pubs and at Newcastle United football matches!
Another reason is that the book looks great. It has an eye-catching cover by Garen Ewing, and we made the decision to get it printed on good quality paper by a printer used by many of the UK's biggest publishers. At 304 pages it's a hefty volume that feels very satisfying in the hand, something that means a lot to book broswers (on the downside it costs us a fortune to post). Some might say it's 'bigger than the Bible' (bigger than those Gideon hotel ones, anyway).
The third reason is that we've put a hell of a lot of work into this, spending weeks hitting the pavements and phone lines attempting to drum up interest from wholesalers, booksellers and the press. This would be a good place to thank everyone who has supported the book - there are still a lot of people in the book industry who are passionate about books. Naturally there are also plenty who don't appear to know their A from their E, and we've suffered plenty of bloody noses after running into their brick walls. But, hey-ho, that's life for you.
Overall the experience has taught us who we can rely on and who we can't, and allowed us to build up an invaluable list of contacts. The process has had a very steep learning curve, and that's the main thing we've gotten out of the project as publishers. Friends who have watched the book's success have asked how much money we're 'raking in'. The honest truth is that we're probably not going to make a penny. The book should eventually make a small profit, but that will go back into the company to fund future projects. This has been about putting out a book we believe in, and making it a success. We've achieved that and are pretty proud of it.
Our recent attempt to make The Burglar's Dog an Amazon bestseller (i.e. hit the Amazon Hot 100) very nearly came off, with the book reaching a ranking of 189 on the day of our 'Burglar's Dog Enamel Badge Giveaway / Amazon Bestseller Attempt', still quite an achievement. [UPDATE: It later hit a rank of 165 before Amazon temporarily ran out of stock, scuppering the plan!] The book DID oddly top the Atlases & Maps bestseller list, ranked number 1, so we did sort of make The Burglar's Dog an Amazon bestseller - an Amazon Travel & Holiday: United Kingdom: Atlases & Maps bestseller. And that's got to count for something, right?!
Recent print coverage for The Burglar's Dog has included Accent, The Informer, Neon, The Sunday Sun, and, as previously blogged, Viz. The book is available from The Back Page, Blackwell's, Bookworld, Borders, Fenwick, Waterstones, [WHSmith is missing from this list for reasons which will be blogged about soon...] Amazon.co.uk, and from tontopress.com. And I can add, quite honestly, get it now while stocks last...
We're holding an 'exclusive' Burglar's Dog Pub Quiz tonight. A report and pictures will follow.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Our books were already stocked by Gardners Books ("the UK's leading book wholesaler" - www.gardners.com), and now they're also stocked by Bertram Books ("the UK's leading book wholesaler" - www.bertram.com). We've naturally found it much easier to get our books stocked in local branches of major bookshops, but this week Borders decided to stock The Burglar's Dog nationally. But the big news is that we have finally managed to get Wor Al and The Burglar's Dog in WHSmith - in one location at least. Visitors to the Gateshead Metrocentre will now be able to purchase both books from that branch of Smiths, although other branches remain unmoved. The big WHSmith on Newcastle's Northumberland Street is now the only book shop in the city that isn't stocking either book. We're still working on them, but in the meantime shoppers might like to cross the street to Virgin or Fenwick, walk up to HMV, or down to Waterstone's, or across to Blackwell's, or drive across to Borders... You get the idea. Tesco are the other retailer that remain uninterested but on our hitlist.
On the subject of problems getting the books on the shelves, this week we had an astonishing exchange with out local library service. Details will be posted soon...
Meanwhile, The Burglar's Dog is out on Monday. It's beginning to get publicity, which you can see on our media page. And if you buy the book from Amazon on Monday you can get a free Burglar's enamel badge. Full details here.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Ah... Iain Banks. This book was first published in 1994 and went straight on my Christmas present list. I hadn't read any of his work for a while and thought I'd pick this book up again after discussing it on Tonto's Creative Writing course over the summer. Banks is an absolute master - This book is a fine example of how to switch point of view from first person to second person and also one of the most unsettling openings to a novel you'll read in a long time. I prefer to see his books in the old black and white covers, although with this version, you can pick it up for one pence! That's right... a single English penny! Complicity is a stunting exploration of the morality of greed, corruption and violence, venturing fearlessly into the darker recesses of human purpose. Add to that some sex, mystery, S&M, computery stuff, some more corruption and murder and you're back in the familiar world of Iain Banks.
Music - Hit Parade by Paul Weller
All the die hard fans have been complaining about this box set. It hasn't got any demos, alternative versions or unreleased tracks on it. So what? It's a four disc set of practically everything Weller has done from The Jam to The Style Council to the Paul Weller Movement and plain old Paul Weller.
Weller is more popular now than he's ever been, attracting a whole new generation of listeners through his influence over all these new indie kid guitar bands and maybe this set is just what a new listener needs. It's just a shame he invited some of them on stage at the BBC Electric Proms recently to murder some of his most dearly-held classic tunes. If you're one of the die hards... you know you'll buy it at some point, even if it's just for the booklet included. Hit Parade could be sub-headed: Every decent Weller track you need without having to buy albums or find and download off the net.
Film - Yellow Submarine by The Beatles
It'll cost you an arm and a leg on Amazon, but every household should have one.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Readers without jeweller's eyepieces can click on the image to see a bigger version. We *think* the sender of the Star Letter gets a free copy of the book. That'll be "Charles Turner", then:
Meanwhile, we're holding a Burglar's Dog pub quiz in Newcastle on Thursday 16 November. It's an exclusive no riff-raff invite-only type affair, and if you're quick you can get an invite here.
Burglar's Dog fans will also want to get hold of one of our exclusive enamel badges. Get more details about that here.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Book: Twelve Grand Jonathan Rendall
Rendall, a boxing writer, was handed a £12,000 advance and told to gamble it and write up the results. But things didn't go to plan, and what starts as an account of a humorous gambling journey turns into a drink-addled tale of personal hell. It's highly original, brutally honest, and brilliantly written - Rendall's occasional columns on boxing, gambling and drinking in various broadsheets are always worth reading regardless of your interest in the subject matter. Subtitled 'The Gambler As Hero', the book inspired a Channel 4 series, which was also excellent and deserves a repeat on More4. You can get Twelve Grand for as little as 50p here. And you can read his brilliant recent Observer piece on tracking down his birth mother here.
CD: Give Up The Postal Service
Combining the melodic pop sensibilities of (Death Cab For Cutie's) Ben Gibbard and the electronic beats and twiddlings of (Dntel's) Jimmy Tamborello, The Postal Service is a side project that is much better than either musician's day job. I normally have an aversion to 'electronic' music, but this is something special - gems of pop songs dipped in shiny beats. Think Technique-era New Order polished up for the noughties and you're partway there. As a taster, you can see Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess's excellent video for cheery nuclear holocaust anthem We Will Become Silhouettes here. You can get Give Up here.
DVD: A Room For Romeo Brass
This Shane Meadows movie starts off with twelve year-olds Romeo and Gavin befriending grown-up loner Morell (Paddy Considine), and for the first act it could easily be an old Children's Film Foundation picture. But everything changes when Morell, obsessed with Romeo's sister, becomes unpredictable and violent. The film then revolves around a brilliantly edgy and genuinely terrifying performance from Considine - certainly living up to his reputation as a British De Niro. His final confrontation with Gavin's dad is one of the scariest and most intense movie scenes I can remember. Morell is a psychopath, but in Considine's hands you can't help feeling sorry for him. You can get the DVD for just £4.97 here.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Our latest title, to be released on 06.11.06, has appeared on Waterstone’s We Highly Recommend list.
The Burglar’s Dog is getting heaps of publicity in the run-up to officially hitting the shops. We could (and will, someday) rant and rave about the difficulties of becoming a ‘new’ and, God forbid, so-called ‘local’ publisher, so having the backing of a major seller in our hometown is a BIG deal.
If you can make the photo out, you’ll see the manager’s comments saying it is on their essential reading list and that it is one of the funniest books he has ever read. Sans bribe, I may add.
Interestingly, if you look closely at the photo, you may be able to make out another book below The Burglar’s Dog. It's by some fella called Dan Brown, I think.
We'll be posting regular updates on the progress of this title. For those who are aware of The Burglar's Dog already, you'll understand why this is a eagerly anticipated book. We've actually had press contacting us to conduct interviews and features, which was a refreshing change.
It will be launched in Newcastle on 16th November and as the saying goes, is available in all good bookshops as well as online stores and our own website.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
*More Tonto Short Stories - submissions invited*
Following the huge success of Tonto Short Stories, we're delighted to announce submission details for More Tonto Short Stories, a further anthology of new writing. This is your chance to have your story published in a top-quality anthology distributed worldwide. Get full details here:
*New creative writing courses announced*
The website now contains details of a range of brand new courses for early 2007. Practical, comprehensive and fun, they're ideal for writers looking to develop their writing with a view to publication. Book your place here:
*New manuscript critique service*
As part of our comittment to encouraging and developing new writing, we're launching a unique and valuable crit service that's all about developing you as a writer and improving your manuscript. As an introductory offer we're offering 30 percent off the service, so hurry along here:
*Free UK shipping on all current titles*
Christmas is inevitably approaching fast, so were offering free UK shipping on all of our current titles, including the brand new The Burglar's Dog, plus a range of other offers including double packs and money off specials. See here:
There have also been a lot of changes to our website, hope you find something there of interest. Let us know what you think.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Friday, October 13, 2006
As it is Friday the 13th, we're breaking the rule and making something good happen. Today we're giving away a Tonto Press book to one lucky person. All you need to do is email us.
We'll randomly select one person from the emails we recieve, which will end at 4 pm GMT today - 13.10.06
Please put 'Give me a free book' in the subject line of your email.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Monday, October 09, 2006
We actually put out a book I had written, The Unofficial Football World Championships, to test the water in terms of sales and distribution, and subsequent titles have benefitted from that. We've had some success, getting our books stocked by the UK's largest wholesaler, becoming a Waterstone's 'approved retailer', and also being stocked, at least regionally, by Asda, Blackwell's, Bookworld, Borders, Fenwick, HMV, and in independent stores. But we've also come up against a fair few brick walls, most notably at one of the country's biggest bookseller, WHSmith. We've had three laughable encounters with that chain's local book buyers which left us (and, to be fair, WHSmith head office) extremely frustrated. The full details of the encounters are probably best left for another time, but the crux of the problem was that none of the local book buyers knew how to use Smith's ordering system, even though it had been in use for some months. So unfortunately our books aren't currently stocked by WHSmith, although we live in hope. I imagine if we coughed up the £50,000 Smiths are demanding from publishers to place books on their Christmas recommended list we'd have had more luck. Unfortunately, that seems to be indicative of the incentive-based road that many retailers are heading down.
Of course our books can be ordered from Smiths, or any 'bricks and mortar' store, but we'd much rather see them on the shelves. Online sales are much easier to navigate. Amazon in particular is a level playing field for publishers - they don't really care if you're HarperCollins or Tonto Press as long as your book sells.
What all of this is leading up to is that we've just sent our new Autumn / Winter catalogue out to just about every major bookshop in the country. You can see a PDF of it here. As a folded leaflet it doesn't quite compare to an Argos catalogue, but we think it looks pretty good thanks to the use of Garen Ewing's Burglar's Dog artwork. Let us know what you think.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
As part of Fiction Week, organised by New Writing North at Darlington Arts Centre, Inependent Northern Publishers were kind enough to invite Stephen Shieber to read 'The Good Little Wife' from the Tonto Short Stories anthology.
On a double-bill with Michael Edwards, Stephen will be at the cafe at Darlington Arts Centre on Saturday 23rd September from 12.30pm - 1.30pm.
Ros Wyllie (also featured in the book) will be reading from her novel in development. Good luck to them both!
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried published in 1991 by Flamingio.
Synopsis: A sequence of stories about the Vietnam War, this book also has the unity of a novel, with recurring characters and interwoven strands of plot and theme. It aims to summarize America's involvement in Vietnam, and her coming to terms with that experience in the years that followed.
Another one we discussed on the Tonto Creative Writing Course, this is an excellent example of story writing. 20% off on Amazon and loads of used ones at a good price too.
Larry Page Orchestra's Lounge With Larry. He is described as an influential manager and producer during the British Invasion, Larry (born Lenny Davis) did a lot for the Kinks in their early career, although he was muscled out of the picture after their first couple of years of success. He had a lengthier relationship with the Troggs, whom he produced in the 1966-68 period that yielded their big hits. I don't go anywhere without Larry Page tunes these days. Best listened to in a smoking jacket and cravat, this is one for the modern English gentlemen out there - perfect for any occasion.
The Descent (2 disc special edition) by Neil Marshall is amazing. Neil's second feature film has a 4-star rating on Amazon where 93 people took the time to review it. With Doomsday on the way, Neil is the hottest new director in the UK at the moment. The film stars Tonto Press' mate Craig Conway, reader of The Last Smoker at the launch of the Short Stories Anthology. This special edition is worth buying just for seeing Craig's dance in the extras. Amazon are doing a deal where you can buy this and Wolf Creek in one go.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Book: The Ice at the Bottom of the World Mark Richard
I recommended this little book of short stories during our first Tonto creative writing course, and I'm happy to do so again today. Richards is the most dynamic writer I've ever encountered - his language and description are a delight to read. He's from Louisiana, and his stories are set in balmy bayous populated with an assortment of fascinating low-lifes. Opener 'Strays' is a fantastic introduction to Richard unique, addictive style, and 'Her Favourite Story' is as good an example of a short story as you're ever likely to see. The collection was published in 1990 (it won the 1990 Ernest Hemingway Award) and is now out of print, but, at the time of writing, Amazon's Marketplace has a few second hand copies in stock for less than a fiver. We'll be linking to all of our recommended picks at Amazon to make it easy to get hold of them. Get The Ice At The Bottom Of The World here.
CD: Nashville Josh Rouse
Josh Rouse is a gem of a singer/songwriter, and Nashville, his last-but-one CD, is probably the best introduction to his talents. A melodic treat of country-tinged classic pop songs, its a CD I've still got in heavy rotation more than two years after its release. If you want to sample a track on iTunes, try It's The Nighttime. Josh regularly visits Tonto's part of the world and is well worth seeing live. And if you like Nashville, Josh's Subtitulo, 1972, and Under Cold Blue Stars are also essential purchases. Get Nashville here.
DVD: The Wire Season One
A TV show, you say? But isn't all TV rubbish? Not when it's made by HBO it isn't. The US cable channel has already brought us The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, The Larry Sanders Show, Band of Brothers, and Ricky Gervais's Extras, but I'm here to tell you that The Wire might just be the best of the lot. A dense, uncompromising crime drama, The Wire tells the story of Baltimore's drug trade through the dual viewpoints of the police and the dealers. It's brilliantly written - almost novelistic in style - and the vast cast of characters are brilliantly realised and portrayed. If the ensemble cast has any stars, they're both British - Dominic West as flawed detective Jimmy McNulty, and Idris Elba as charismatic drug lieutenant Stringer Bell. I could go on all day about how good The Wire is, but suffice to say every single episode is better than any movie I've seen in the last two or three years. You need to start with Season One, but Seasons Two and Three are even better. Amazon are currently doing Seasons One and Two for an amazing £24.97 each - that's less than two quid an episode! You can also rent it using the same link. Get The Wire Season One here.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
A week after the book launch and we are pleased that Wor Al is doing so well. The launch night proved that not only was there support for Shearer himself, but for Tonto Press. The positive feedback from contributors and readers has been very encouraging indeed. It is nice to know that there is interest in what we are doing, and as a reminder, you can keep up to date with Tonto goings on by subscribing to our newsletter. So what are you waiting for?
Again... big thanks to Monica on the night for helping raise so much money for the NSPCC. Without her, we would have modelled the signed shirt ourselves and probably raised 7 pence in the process. Cheers to my good mate Phil Hoffmann for MCing - he's a great actor and when he's not in one of my own shoddy productions, he can be found in decent plays 'n' stuff.
Phil aka Patrick Hoffmann playing Dan in Gorgeous Avatar
More thanks to all those who Paul already mentioned, and no thanks to all those friends who said they'd come along and then stayed in because of a bit of rain.
Well. There's my first Blog. Bye for now.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Among the fun and games on offer were a prize draw, a picture board quiz, a raffle, and a sweepstakes to win, among other things, a Newcastle United shirt signed by Shearer, Given, Duff and Owen, a framed England shirt signed by Shearer, the signed original Wor Al artwork, various other signed goodies, and real cash money. All proceeds from the games went to the NSPCC, as does 50p from every copy of Wor Al sold.
Once again we were amazed by the distances people had travelled specifically to attend our launch. Thanks to everyone who turned out, bought books, coughed up for the games, and helped us raise a few hundred quid for the NSPCC in the process.
Big thanks to Monica Harris for doing the hostess thing (fans should check out her website www.monica-harris.com), Phil Hoffmann for acting as compere, Danny Mitchell for donating the England shirt and representing the NSPCC, Lisa and Ray for handling the book sales, Dave Lynn for organising the sweepstakes, Tony O'Donnell for donating the original artwork. Stu and I really appreciated it, ta.
*Earlier in the day I plugged the launch on BBC Radio Newcastle, and they put together a nice montage of voiced extracts from "Wor Al". Listen to it here (mp3, right click to "save as"). The full interview is on our media page.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
The scary painting reminded me of a feature I wrote for the Sunday Herald a couple of years ago called "Art Of Darkness", about a the famous eBay Haunted Painting. "When this painting appeared for sale on the internet, some who saw it wept in terror!" You can read it here with photos over three JPG pages: page 1 / page 2 / page 3
Off now to make final preparations for the big "Wor Al" book launch, details of which are here. We'll post pics and reports from the launch here soon.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
There was an interview with Short Stories writers Phil Jell, Stephen Shieber and Jolene Hui in Medium magazine, and a feature on our New Novelists project in Writer's News.